JULY 5, 2012 5:53PM

The Plume of Freedom: On Being Busy in America

Rate: 2 Flag

No doubt, American culture is based on three things: caffeine, lack of sleep, and feeling too busy. It doesn't take much to recognize that these three things are connected. I'm going to guess that if you gave up caffeine and/or got enough sleep you wouldn't feel so busy. Not that you wouldn't have a lot to do, but you wouldn't be so zippy that you think being busy is an excuse for anything, or a virtue. Afterall, everyone who is done with school in this country is consumed by responsibility. If it's not work, it's kids, the spouse, the house, planning for a trip, shopping, blah, blah, blah. 

As a friend told me a week ago, she hates people who say they're busy. "It's just an excuse for not choosing to pay attention to something or someone they know they should." Busy, busy, busy, blah, blah, blah. I called my friend on the phone today to talk more about her thoughts on busy-ness. She said she could give me 10 minutes because she had a client coming over. "I'm sorry. But I promise I won't use the 'b' word." Yeah, well, she was busy.

The United States of America is driving itself crazy thinking that its busy. It most surely is a root state of mind in our collective conscience. In some ways, busy-ness should be looked at as the plume of freedom. This is the land where you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. If you're not busy, then someone is going to come along and give you something to do, or something to pay attention to. So drink your coffee or tea, wake up in the middle of the night fretting about all the crap you forgot to do the day before, and make sure everyone knows you're busy when you get to work and when you come home. Do something with that freedom, for God sake!

There's a breed of professional out there that loves to brag about how much they work. Ever since I started my first job after graduate school I've run into this type of person at parties or work events. They're usually pretty darned successful, but they can't help talking about their 80-hour work weeks. These are the people whose children I coach in baseball who rarely show up for entire games or spend Saturday mornings moving a cell phone from ear to ear while their kid is out in centerfield or playing third. I feel sorry for these people, but they are typically not so busy that they can't add one more element to their basic list: caffeine, loss of sleep, thinking they're busy, and alcohol. These busy-ass people can drink better than the rest of us.

I also have friends who complain endlessly about how hard it is to be a parent because they work so much. By the time their kids are about 12 these people have often scheduled their progeny up solidly with music or dance lessons, sports teams, and maybe religious or community group activity. These are good people. And they mean well. But they're in the process of making busy a normal state of mind for their kids. They love to boast about all the things their children are up to. I notice as well that by the age of 15 or 16 their kids have learned to brag about all the things they are doing. Some of these parents have added an alcohol commitment to their list of personal habits. Most of their kids do, too, after a while. These kids are, of course, in training to become 80+ hour a week braggarts. 

In the end, if everyone's busy, are any of us really busy? My answer to that question is, no. No, you're not busy. You're just making choices. You're consumed by a sense of responsibility. It's your plume of freedom. Stop it! Go for a walk with your kids instead of attending that party. Read a freakin' novel. Stay home for your family vacation. Sleep in if you wake up to make lists at 3:00 in the morning. Get some nooky in the afternoon with your spouse at a hotel down the road from your office (from your spouse!...affairs will really make you think you're busy). Volunteer to coach youth sports and tell your boss (or employees) you have to leave at 4:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays because you need to be at the field first. 

You see, busy is just a word about who you're choosing to be. You've got nothing to prove and you're not working harder than anyone else. You're just too filled up with caffeine, no sleep, and maybe a bit more booze than is good for anyone.  

I've said enough. I need to go have a glass of wine and get dinner started. I've been at my desk writing this essay since 4:00 this morning. Salud!  

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Really liked this post. I have changed GREATLY since my thirties when I was BUSY BUSY BUSY and CRAZY CRAZY CRAZY. I'm in a different place in my life, I do not have young children and my parent caregiving duties are less now (with 3/4 gone) so it is not my place to criticize those who have other issues. But I just wonder if electronics have contributed to this sense of BUSYNESS? Most of the people I know who are busy are addicted to that cell phone and can barely go to the can without it. It's all about choices, people. Well, some it is is about choices anyway.